Sonia Moto, a young agricultural producer from the town of Barbaño, in the Spanish region of Extremadura, is one of the creators of Fru&Tube, the first vending machine for fresh fruit. The idea came about after a long stay in a hospital, where they could only snack sugary drinks, industrial pastries, soft drinks or salty snacks, which is common in machines. "We realized that there were no fresh products in these public establishments, and we thought that fruits in small sizes could fit perfectly there," said Moto.
After reaching this conclusion, and spending two years looking for a way to place the fruit in the vending machines, they found the right solution at the Fruit Attraction fair in Madrid: a dispensing device from Carlos Méndez. They quickly started a conversation with him. They didn't know that yet, but the foundations of Fru&Tube were being laid.
Four years later, the right container was already developed and even patented. Fru&Tube is, according to its members, the only company in the world that has vending machines containing only fresh products. You can purchase stone fruit, bananas, cherry tomatoes, kakis, apricots, juices, nuts or dried fruit; all fresh.
The plastic container in which the fruit is placed was initially intended to prevent an impact when falling, but currently the Fru&Tube machines have an elevator that goes up, picks up the product and goes back down. However, they have kept the container because it has other advantages. The holes are strategically placed for the fruit to breathe, but since less oxygen enters, the ripening process is delayed. This, together with the cooling of the machines, allows the piece to stay fresh for at least fifteen days.
The container is tightly-sealed and transparent, so you can see the condition of what you are going to eat. Moreover, it fits in the drink holders of cars. That is why Fru&Tube products are also for sale at gas stations. If the consumer wishes to carry the container in a backpack or bag, they can do so without fear of the food getting spoiled.
There are currently twelve machines in Madrid, although Fru&Tube will also supply vending companies wishing to add some fruit to their range. "At the moment, they are reluctant, because ultra-processed products are cheaper and require less maintenance, even though we only record a 5% loss of our fruit," she says. "We do need institutional support."
While that support arrives, Fru&Tube has an eye on the future. They have managed to design a 100% biodegradable container. By 2020, they intend to stop producing plastic and manufacture their containers only with recycled plastic.